Unlikely alliance on cards but PA demands could scupper plans
The Patriotic Alliance (PA) will get into bed with the DA to help govern Nelson Mandela Bay if it is given the deputy mayor position as well as the post of political head of safety and security.
Should this not be agreed to, the PA will abandon all coalition talks taking place between the par ties’ national bosses.
PA national chairwoman Leanne Williams said the ball was in the DA’s court to convince its other coalition partners – the ACDP, COPE and UDM – to agree to its conditions.
The ultimatum puts the DA in a difficult position as the deputy mayor post is already filled by the UDM’s Mongameli Bobani and the DA’s John Best heads the safety and security portfolio.
While the relationship between mayor Athol Trollip and Bobani has become increasingly untenable over the last five months, the UDM is still a coalition partner with an agreement in place that was signed at a national level.
But the UDM – with its two seats – has in recent months constantly voted with opposition parties in the council against proposals and agenda items championed by the coalition government.
This is what prompted the unlikely alliance between the DA and PA, which have had a hostile relationship – at local and national level – over the past couple of years.
Yesterday, it emerged that Bay PA councillor Marlon Daniels had already signed a co-governance agreement with Trollip committing his party to working with the DA.
The PA has only one seat in the council. In a letter sent to DA leader Mmusi Maimane and federal executive leader James Selfe on Wednesday, Trollip said he planned to appoint Daniels to his mayoral committee.
“They [PA] have also said they cannot and will not sit and watch the other opposition mobilising and uniting around race to make decisions on the fate of the citizens, especially the poor citizens regarding service delivery and good governance issues,” he wrote.
“If we are committed to providing the citizens of this city and country [with] a united and viable alternative to the ANC in 2019, we will have to take partners like the PA on board.”
Trollip said Daniels had already signed the co-governance agreement and that he had already had a meeting with national PA leader Gayton McKenzie and Williams, who had confirmed their participation and commitment to the agreement.
“In light of this, I would appreciate it if you would inform our other co-signatories to the NMBM co-governance agreement that the PA has joined our coalition and that I intend to appoint councillor Daniels to my mayoral committee,” Trollip wrote.
Including the PA in the coalition does not, however, necessarily give the DA, COPE and ACDP a 61-member majority out of a total of 120 seats.
Instead, if the UDM teams up with the opposition parties and continues to vote against its coalition partners, the council will have a 60-60 member split.
This means the coalition government will not be able to pass budgets, bylaws and all matters related to the city’s finances without the help of at least one opposition councillor.
However, on any other agenda items and motions, council speaker Jonathan Lawack (DA) would have a casting vote, which essentially gives him a deciding vote in the event of a tie. The seat allocations in the council are DA 57, ANC 50, EFF six, UDM two, and COPE, ACDP, United Front, AIC and PA all one each. Williams said they had sent their demands to the DA and these were non-negotiable.
She said they wanted to be in charge of the safety and security portfolio because they believed it would put them in a better position to deal with the violence and crime in the northern areas – where the majority of the PA’s voters lived.
Selfe said it was premature to talk about positions as they still had to finalise the agreement with all the coalition partners. He said the co-governance agreement signed by Trollip and Daniels was the same agreement signed by all the coalition partners, which signified their intention to abide by the provisions stipulated.
The agreement still needed to be formalised and could only be done in consultation with the DA’s other coalition partners. “We are now inviting the views of the other coalition partners,” Selfe said.
Asked if the DA would consider handing over the two positions to the PA, he said: “The deputy mayor remains the deputy mayor, so there’s no change there.
“A discussion on positions is premature because the [partnership has] to be formalised before we talk. “I don’t know when it will be formalised, but it will be done with the objective of building a big and inclusive coalition that can hopefully take on the ANC in 2019.”
Daniels said he had entered into discussions with Trollip because there was a need to create stability in the metro. “What do you do when your back is against the wall?
You look for solutions,” he said. “The discussions are ongoing and subject to a few terms and conditions.” He said the agreement he had signed was a preliminary memorandum of understanding which committed the PA to ensuring stability in the city governance.
Asked about the tense relationship between the DA and PA in the past, Daniels said this had “always been based on assumption, speculation and opinion which had no real verification”.
Meanwhile, UDM president Bantu Holomisa said they were not aware of the agreement between Trollip and Daniels, but the UDM would not challenge it. “They must handle that so-called coalition,” he said.
“If it suits them, let them have it, but we are still part of the coalition.” – Additional reporting by Johnnie Isaac